The unsuspecting first-time reader of The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop. will find its first few pages confusing: A character named J. Henry Waugh, greatly excited, seems to be watching not simply an ordinary baseball game but a no-hit game in progress. Henry looks first at the sun, high over the ballpark, then at his watch, but the watch reads almost eleven o’clock, and any American reader knows that major-league baseball is not played in the morning. The confusion intensifies when Henry thinks that it may be a long night—night?—with the sun high over the park? During the seventh-inning stretch, Henry leaves his apartment and goes to the delicatessen downstairs to buy a sandwich. Henry must be watching the game on television, then.
The mystery is resolved soon, though, when it becomes clear that the game is being played only in Henry’s mind. The contest is indeed a game, one directed with dice according to a set of rules of Henry’s devising, and played by characters existing only in his imagination.
The richly colorful world of the Universal Baseball Association, known only to Henry, contrasts strongly with his humdrum existence as an accountant. Henry is a bachelor with numerous acquaintances but apparently only one friend—another accountant named Lou Engel. Yet there seems a fitness in Henry’s attraction to, even fanaticism about, baseball. It is overwhelmingly a game of record keeping: wins and losses, batting averages, earned-run averages, and all the other statistical paraphernalia by which the baseball fan measures out his life and admiration.
Henry prefers the world located in his apartment’s kitchen. He has invented not simply a game—he has created an entire eight-team league and played out fifty-five full seasons by the opening of the novel. The number of UBA seasons (always given in Roman numerals in the novel, for example, LVI) has caught up to the fifty-six-year-old Henry’s age, a fact which seems significant to him. For only part of his passion is the rolling out of the games themselves. He has recorded each game on a scorecard, maintained all the records and statistics, and even created biographies and personalities for each of the players on each club’s twenty-one-man roster. Just as players do in real life, Henry’s players grow old and...
(The entire section is 962 words.)